Reassuring passengers about safety vital for ScotRail’s recovery

A ScotRail ticket examiner, confronted by a gang of teenage yobs beating up a boy on her train, alerts British Transport Police.

Traumatised, with her blood pressure “sky high” as she tries to eject the youths from the carriage, she texts police: “Assault on passenger between Alexandria and Renton. Police need to attend as these people are out looking for trouble.”

But officers didn’t arrive until after the crew member had successfully thrown them off the train, booked off her shift early after feeling “physically sick” at what she’d witnessed, and was waiting for a taxi home.

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It turned out they had been diverted to deal with a child on a railway line in Glasgow.

British Transport Police focus on "intelligence-led" policing in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin

BTP said incidents were graded by the “threat, risk and harm involved”, and its control room had been told the youths in the West Dunbartonshire incident were no longer on the train.

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But that won’t be terribly reassuring to the passengers which ScotRail and its new Scottish Government owners are desperately trying to encourage back onto trains after Covid, which has prompted the launch next Monday of one of its biggest ever seat sales.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has already pledged to tackle the “systemic problem” of women’s safety on the railways, telling MSPs of her own chilling experience of being harassed on a train by drunken men.

Sunday's incident, which The Scotsman revealed this week, is far from uncommon, with anti-social behaviour exacerbated by the lack of ticket checks during the pandemic, passengers and staff have told me.

It’s important not to exaggerate the scale of the problem, but equally we should not underestimate the “fear factor” such hooliganism can generate.

BTP has only some 200 officers to police the geographically vast Scottish network – Glasgow's alone is the biggest outside London – so there is “intelligence-led” deployment of officers.

Maximising their visible presence should be a priority, but ScotRail must also redouble efforts to ensure its staff are seen frequently walking through the carriages.

Too often, I haven’t had my ticket checked on trains because there's been no sign of them, especially at night, when the presence of conductors and ticket examiners is needed the most.

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